Peer pressure can curb teen drug use

By • Published: January 23rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Remember how the adults always sounded in the Charlie Brown cartoons? No voice, just an incoherent mumble that made it sound like every adult in town was in the Witness Protection Program? That’s pretty much what teens hear when teachers broach touchy topics such as drug use.

But when the conversation stays among teens, the voice registers loud and clear.

A new University of Southern California study shows that teens are fifteen percent less likely to use drugs after participating in drug prevention programs led by peers than teens in teacher-led programs.

The researchers measured how well the two types of programs worked by studying the effects of each on teens considered to be at high risk for drug use.

Students chosen for the peer-led program were allowed to stay in groups with their friends and participated in interactive discussions led by one of their peers. They were also permitted to take part in more group activities than students in the traditional program.

But the program couldn’t conquer all influences. Teens whose friends used drugs remained more likely to use drugs, regardless of what they learned in the program.

According to the U-S Department of Justice, sixty-six percent of high-school seniors in 2006 reported drinking alcohol within the past year. About thirty-two percent reported using marijuana.

But experts say peer programs like the one U-S-C researchers studied can help curb this trend among teens.

Apparently, sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing.